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Zebari Rejects Speculations on Extension of US Mission in Iraq

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TEHRAN, June 21 (ICANA) – Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari categorically denied speculations that Baghdad is planning to strike a deal with Washington to extend the presence of the US troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 8:52:58 PM
Zebari Rejects Speculations on Extension of US Mission in Iraq

He made the remarks in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi here in Tehran on Tuesday, responding to a question about the yesterday meeting between Iraq's leaders and political groups in which the timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from the country was discussed.

"Yesterday, a meeting was held at the presidential office which was participated by all the political groups and leaders of Iraq and the US military presence in Iraq was discussed in the meeting.

"But, extension of the presence of these (US) forces did not go under discussion and it will never be put to discussion," the Iraqi foreign minister said, reiterating that Baghdad would never accept to discuss such an issue under any circumstances.

The US military agreement signed between Baghdad and Washington at the end of November 2008 stipulates the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by December 31, 2011 as a deadline.

The US has pressed senior Iraqi officials to revise their decision on the US pullout and demand Washington to keep its troops in the country beyond their scheduled departure in the yearend.

Iraqi state officials as well as religious and political figures have all condemned the US attempts for extending the mission of its troops in the country.

Late in April, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that Iraq no more needs the US forces to protect its internal security, and underlined that his government will not bow to the pressures exerted on Baghdad to accept an extended US military mission in the country.

Senior Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Kazzem al-Hosseini al-Haeri condemned the attempts made by Washington to prolong its military deployment in Iraq, and issued a Fatwa (religious decree) against the presence of the US forces in the country after the end of 2011.

"The extended mission of the infidel occupiers in Iraq even for one single day after the mentioned date (as cited in the security agreement) is haram (religiously forbidden)," the Grand Ayatollah declared in his decree.

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